On J.J. Murphy's Irish Pub’s opening day, reports the Star Tribune, bagpipers blasted their traditional tunes and a priest blessed the bar, a custom for new businesses in Ireland. The owner of local Irish-themed restaurants, including O'Donovan's Irish Pub and Jake O'Connors, native Irishman Dermot Cowley established J.J. Murphy’s in honor of the city of Blaine’s first settler from the 1860s, Irishman Phillip Laddy.
Alongside Irish pub classics such as beef and Guinness stew, Dermot’s handpicked menu includes soft pretzels with a Jameson’s Irish Whiskey-spiked mustard and a vegetarian-friendly sandwich with grilled tomatoes and sautéed onions. These feasts unfold in a spacious bar outfitted with salvaged material from Ireland, including the sign from famous Dublin bar The 5 Crosses and a lost and confused Liam Neeson. Old oak tables, antique benches, and a toasty fireplace adorn the dining area, while bartenders behind the copper bar supply spirits to thirsty patrons tapping their toes to concerts from live musicians on the pub’s new stage.
A bowling alley, sports bar, 4,100-square-foot arcade, and convention hall all reside within Blainbrook Entertainment Center. In the bowling alley, families and friends challenge each other at one of 24 neon-lit lanes equipped with automatic scoring or join the center's competitive leagues for adults and children ages 5–19. Meanwhile, sports fans grab a seat in the sports bar to watch games on big-screen TVs, listen to live music, enjoy steak dinners from the menu, or play pool. Pool tables also fill the arcade alongside poker tables, dartboards, and more than 50 games, including virtual-reality games. And when guests need to host a wedding reception, family reunion, or rock-paper-scissors competition, they fill Brookhall–a large convention center with a bar, crystal chandeliers, and access to an outdoor garden.
Steel Toe Brewery's founder was a home brewer, fermenting beer in his bedroom overnight, until the gurgling sounds of the carboy began to disturb his wife's sleep. Origin stories like these are just one of the attractions of Taproom Tours' brewery tours, which also explore the Belgian yeast of Boom Island Brewing, celebrate session ales at 612 Brew, and enable sud savoring in the wood-paneled taproom at Indeed Brewing Company. Visitors taste sample brews at each location, and, helped along by a knowledgeable guide, explore the breweries' inner workings until they have learned every yeast strain's first name and favorite sports team.
Exposed brick and stone surfaces weave a common theme through Cityside Bar & Grill's varied dining spaces. In the St. Paul room, an enormous stone fireplace rises before a collection of wooden tables, and in the Minneapolis Loft, brick columns join slanted ceiling beams to frame a more intimate scene. The bar area houses a stage for live music performances held every Saturday night, while outside, the restaurant's roomy patio overlooks a rippling pond. Cityside's menu share’s the architecture’s diverse core, offering everything from stone-hearth pizzas to steaks, ribs, and pastas. Chefs also assemble six signature sandwiches inspired by their cities of origin, stopping just short of autographing each in mustard to maintain established levels of authenticity.
In a way, Big Dipper Ice Cream Shop specializes in fusion cuisine. The family-owned shop combines ice cream with a variety of desserts to make entirely new concoctions. For instance, their handmade ice cream flavors are infused with a host of candies that would feel right at home in a movie theater including Almond Joy and Snickers. Other flavors derive their tang from fresh fruit, as in the case of black raspberry and caramel apple. Still others owe their taste to classic confections such as cheesecake, licorice, and the popular dirty turtle, a mix of dark chocolate, pecans, and caramel.
There are more than 40 flavors in all behind the counter. And though you might miss out on mint oreo during one visit, you could get lucky the next time you stop by as the staff constantly rotates the selection. These staffers are also responsible for the shop's festive, community atmosphere that can make their sweets taste even sweeter, a fact that earned the shop a nomination for the 2013 Macaroni Kid Family Choice Awards. There's even a vending machine outside where customers can pick up pre-packaged servings to eat ice cream on the go without having to install a tiny freezer in their glove compartment.
There's one in every neighborhood—a cheerful little mom-and-pop sandwich shop where the servers are friendly and it always smells wonderfully of toasting bread. Chubby's sets itself apart with an eclectic menu of classic and innovative sandwiches, which chefs cobble together from freshly sliced meats and local ingredients. Bustling behind counters from the early morning until dusk, these cooks whip up timeless club, Reuben, and italian sandwiches and craft spicy pulled-pork wraps and apple-bacon paninis. They also hand out a variety of specials—including ribs, meatloaf, and soups—which, like the colors of the rainbow, change from day to day. Sandwiches in hand, guests can dine at the shop's tabletops beneath the glimmer of television sets.